PARIS — After a swing through New York in late September to finalize details of her forthcoming shop at Bergdorf Goodman, Loulou de la Falaise departed the city with much lighter luggage.

This story first appeared in the November 17, 2003 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

That’s because enthusiastic buyers at Bergdorf’s relieved her of most of her jewelry — along with that worn by her adviser, Ariel de Ravenel — to shoot immediately for the store’s upcoming holiday catalogue. “They wanted everything we were wearing,” de la Falaise recalled. “They’ve been particularly enthusiastic and charming, I must say.”

It’s been less than a year since de la Falaise, the legendary muse and accessories guru of retired couture icon Yves Saint Laurent, hung out her shingle on Rue de Bourgogne in Paris. At the time, she vowed to keep her business centered there, and insisted she would not leap into wholesaling her signature line of ready-to-wear, handbags and jewelry until she revved up her woefully tardy production schedule.

But Bergdorf’s insisted, and secured de la Falaise exclusively for North America. The store plans to showcase her jewelry on its main floor, starting at the end of this month, adding rtw and jewelry on the fourth floor come mid-December. A launch event is planned to coincide with fashion week in New York in February.

“What we love about her collection is that it has so much personality,” said Robert Burke, vice president and senior fashion director at Bergdorf’s. “Fashion is not always about the runway. It’s also about very wearable, interesting and unusual pieces and Loulou’s collection has such a high taste level, done in a very understated way.”

Burke said he dispatched one of his deputies to help the fledgling house ready a collection for cruise delivery. It centers on proven bestsellers, including kimono blouses, pajama pants with buttons running up the sides, suede shirt jackets in vivid colors, raw silk jeans and wrap sweaters with contrasting trim.

For her part, de la Falaise had to admit she spied a niche for her jewelry designs even after scouring Bergdorf’s vast offering. “The things that are in my price range are a lot more timid,” she said. De la Falaise is famous, especially for her large-scale necklaces, which combine such diverse materials as river stones, glass, lapis lazuli, quartz, lacquered bamboo, turquoise, amethyst and silk tassels. She offhandedly described the elements, often mounted on silk cord, as “semiprecious or even quarter-precious.”

For spring, jewelry groups are inspired by such disparate themes as China, Africa, flowers and animals, with pearls and crystals rounding out the options. Retail prices range from about $300 for earrings to about $1,500 for necklaces.

Jewelry represents about a quarter of de la Falaise’s business, with knitwear being the other major category. Rtw prices range from about $400 to $700 for knitwear up to about $2,000 for a suede jacket.

Meanwhile, other retailers have approached de la Falaise about carrying her line, but she insists she won’t expand her distribution before fall 2004. But what if they insist?

“We’re not in an aggressive mood,” she demurred.

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